Tunneled Epidural

A tunneled epidural catheter is a medical device that involves the insertion of a thin, flexible tube into the epidural space of the spine. This tube is then tunneled under the skin, allowing for the administration of ongoing doses of medication that can effectively block the nerves in the spinal cord from sensing pain.

Patients recovering from cancer or major chest surgery with prolonged pain are frequently treated with tunneled epidural catheters. These catheters are designed to deliver medication directly to the epidural space, which is the outermost part of the spinal canal. By doing so, the medication can block pain signals from reaching the brain, helping to manage pain and improve the patient's quality of life.

Tunneled Epidural Catheter Implantation Procedure

Step 1: An intravenous medication will be administered to help patient relax. It is followed by an intravenous antibiotic. Thereafter, the patient will be asked to lie on stomach on an x-ray table.

Step 2: The doctor will use a local anesthetic to numb an area of back. Thereafter, the doctor will be guided by an x-ray while:

Step 3: Doctor will insert a thin needle into spine.

Step 4: A catheter will be inserted through the needle into the epidural space of spine.

Step 5: Catheter will be threaded under a portion of skin away from spine.

Step 6: The end of the catheter sticking out from skin will be taped to back. If needed, doctor will inject pain medication into the catheter.

What are the risks?

Tunneled epidural catheters hold a risk for infection. This is common in case of a spinal epidural and at the site where it enters the body through the skin. A catheter should be checked on a regular basis.

Common side effects of an implant procedure may include the following:

  • Dizziness
  • Numb or weak legs
  • Discomfort at the site of inserting catheter

All of the above listed side effects are temporary and can be easily managed under the supervision of medical professionals.

What happens after the procedure?

Following the procedure, you will be monitored for approximately 15 minutes in a recovery room to ensure that there are no immediate complications. Afterwards, you will likely be admitted to the hospital for a period of two to three days so that your doctor can oversee the regulation of your medication and ensure that you are on the path to a smooth and successful recovery.


Doctors will allow you to resume your regular diet. Strictly avoid doing any rigorous activity.

Doctor will ask patients to return to clinic for regular check-ups every 2 weeks. This is important for getting catheter check and change the dressing on your skin.

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